A Western Mora Soil & Water Conservation District board member was thrown off the board earlier this month after the district manager filed a police report accusing him of assaulting her and another employee accused him of harassment.
The board voted during an Oct. 4 meeting to remove Juan Felix Archuleta from the board after District Manager Megan McCawley-Rivera came forward and said that Archuleta had been harassing her and that he assaulted her at the office on Sept. 17. Specifically, she is accusing Archuleta of striking her hand as she picked up her cell phone to call board chairman Gary Martinez to inform him that Archuleta was trying to take district records out of the office.
Attempts by the Optic to reach Archuleta for comment on Wednesday and Thursday were unsuccessful. But the police report states that he denies the accusation and that he accused McCawley-Rivera of hitting him.
The altercation stemmed from a dispute over documents that Archuleta was demanding.
The Mora County Sheriff’s Department police report and written statements from employees suggest that Archuleta had concerns about the rental of Soil & Water Conservation District equipment and that he was asking to see documents on those rentals and paperwork involving another employee. The report and statements also reference a document being shredded by McCawley-Rivera.
She told the Optic on Thursday that the document shredded was a written reprimand given to an employee that had been rescinded by the board after he refuted allegations made against him. She said the board had actually instructed her to remove the letter of reprimand from the employee’s file and to replace it with a letter of counsel.
McCawley-Rivera said in her written statement to police that Archuleta demanded to see the documents on the rental of equipment, and she told him he could look at the documents in the office, but he couldn’t remove them from the office. She states that he called her a derogatory name several times, that he accused her of being in cahoots with the board and that he tried to leave the building with several documents, which included bills and equipment rental contracts.
She said she tried to keep him from leaving with the documents and asked another employee to call police, but that Archuleta actually called state police. She said that’s when Archuleta struck her hand.
McCawley-Rivera said Archuleta told state police that he wasn’t being allowed to have public documents and that she wasn’t allowing him to leave the office.
She said Archuleta eventually returned some of the documents to her, and she said he told her she was going to lose her job over the incident.
According to the police report, Archuleta told a deputy that he did become upset when McCawley-Rivera refused to provide public documents to him. He told the deputy he never tried to knock the phone from her hands but said she hit him as she was trying to get the paperwork away from him. McCawley-Rivera denies hitting Archuleta.
The deputy states that he asked state police about the call Archuleta made to them, and state police confirmed that he complained that public documents weren’t being released to him. But state police said Archuleta never reported the altercation that took place. The deputy also states that while witnesses heard Archuleta being verbally abusive toward McCawley-Rivera, no witnesses saw physical contact between the two.
The report states that the deputy contacted the district attorney’s office about the incident and that he was advised not to make an arrest because further review of the case was needed to determine whether any further action should be taken.
Both McCawley-Rivera and employee Alfred E. Sánchez have filed complaints with the board about Archuleta. Sánchez alleges in his complaint that Archuleta made “blatantly false accusations regarding me and my work.” He alleges that on one occasion, Archuleta threatened to fire him and that he accused him and others of favoring certain individuals and of not treating everyone equally.
Martinez, the board chairman who is also running for a House seat in the general election, said Archuleta has been making unfounded allegations that equipment is missing. Martinez said all of the district’s equipment is accounted for and that his allegations have been looked into and have been found to be without merit.
Martinez said that since Archuleta was removed he has been going around town making “fraudulent accusations” of wrongdoing against board members and employees.
The Western Mora Soil & Water Conservation District is governed by a five member elected board. The organization helps the community with soil and water conservation issues and promotes good farming practices.